Let's Talk Tarantulas

In this Remarkable Idea, students will learn some facts about tarantulas and make their own to bring home.

This activity addresses:

  • Life science
  • Choice making
  • Social skills
  • Fine motor skills
  • Cause and effect
  • Alternative methods of access

What you need:

  • Step-by-Step
  • TalkingBrix
  • 1 1/2-inch Styrofoam balls (2 for each student)
  • Toothpicks
  • White pipe cleaners
  • Shorter pieces of white pipe cleaners
  • Black, brown, and red paint
  • Painting materials (brushes, bowls, plates, locking plastic bags)
  • Pictures of a male and female tarantulas


1. Record the definition of “molting” on a TalkingBrix.
2. Record the definition of “exoskeleton” on a TalkingBrix.
3. Record tarantula facts to the Step-by-Step.
4. Attach two Styrofoam balls together using a toothpick for each student.
5. Create overlays using the AbleNet Symbol Overlay Maker app.

What to do:

1. Begin by telling the class that you are going to be discussing and making tarantulas. Give them each a tarantula body to paint either brown or black. Students can paint with a brush, finger paint, roll the balls in paint, or place the body in a locking plastic bag filled with paint and shake it - make sure it’s completely zipped shut before shaking! - and set aside to air dry.
2. Introduce the two vocabulary words “molting” and “exoskeleton” to the class and select a “Word Whiz” to activate the TalkingBrix to tell the class the definition of each word.
3. Give each student an opportunity to activate the Step-by-Step to learn different facts about tarantulas and discuss them.
4. When the vocabulary words appear in the tarantula facts, have your “Word Whiz” activate the TalkingBrix to remind the students of what the new words mean.
5. Build tarantulas of your own making sure to use the new knowledge of tarantula anatomy. Each spider should have two body parts, eight legs, and two palps.

  • Have students determine based on the color they choose for their tarantula if theirs will be a male or a female spider.
  • Attach four legs to each side of the tarantula. To be anatomically correct, legs should all be attached to one Styrofoam ball.
  • Each student will attach eight legs and two palps to their tarantula.
  • Finish painting the tarantulas. A little red can be added to the males and a little black to the females as accent colors.


Molting definition: “Molting means to lose a covering of hair, feathers, or an old shell, and replace it with a new growth in the same place.”
Exoskeleton definition: “An exoskeleton is a hard covering that supports and protects the bodies of some types of animals. The word exoskeleton actually means “outside skeleton”.
“There are around 700 species, or types, of tarantulas.”
“Tarantulas build their homes underground.”
“Tarantulas eat insects, grasshoppers, and beetles. Some tarantulas even eat small birds!”
“Tarantula’s natural enemies are weasels, skunks, snakes, and owls.”
“One other predator that the tarantula must fear is … people. Some people actually keep tarantulas as pets, and in some countries they even eat them!”
“Tarantulas have an exoskeleton. This means instead of having bones inside their bodies like people, they have a hard covering on the outside of their bodies. As a tarantula grows, it must molt or shed its exoskeleton.“ (Videos of this can be found online)
“During a molting phases, a tarantula can even regrow lost legs.”
“Their life span is up to 30 years for females 5-10 for males.”
“A tarantula’s body can be up to 4.75 in (12 cm) long and its leg span can be up to 11 in (28 cm).”
“Tarantulas weigh 1 to 3 oz (28 to 85 g).”
“A female’s lifespan is up to 30-years, and a male’s lifespan is 5 to 10-years.”
“A male tarantula is usually thinner than a female and has black and reddish hair.”
“Tarantulas have two body parts - the cephalothorax and the abdomen, eight legs, and two pedipalps - sometimes called palps for short - that are used for feeling and moving things.”